In quest of a fortune - fossicking for gold
After leaving the Willows Gem
Fields armed with our solitary sapphire find, we
headed back to Anakie and turned north to Clermont travelling through
the small adjoining villages of Sapphire and Rubyvale, where a number
of active commercial and tourist gem mines still operate today. From Rubyvale,
it was on to the dirt and through some interesting country littered with
basalt-capped outcrops, remnants of ancient volcanic activity.
Located in Queensland's Central
Highlands, about 273 km inland for Mackay, today the town is an important
mining centre, with Blair Athol coal mine located less than 20km away.
In the late 1800's it was a bustling productive gold mining area and a
number of public fossicking areas have now been opened up to develop regional
tourism. The patronage at the local caravan park is testament to the locale's
popularity for metal detecting.
We had purchased a Queensland
Government Fossickers Licence in Brisbane and were informed that we also
required Clermont's own Fossicking Kit, essential before passage is granted
to individuals to enter and metal detect in the designated General Permission
Areas around Clermont.
The kit was purchased at the
Clermont Caravan park, which looked like mini suburbia, and we decided
that we would establish a base about 25km out of town at a camping area
on Theresa Dam.
It proved to be a good choice...very
secluded, scenic and quite tranquil.
After a bit of deliberation,
we settled on a fossicking place called McMasters, on Queensland State
Forest land, about 30km north west of Clermont, on the Gregory Development
Road to Charters Towers.
Two days of weaving in and out of spindly trees, down and up dry gullies
and along stony creek beds proved fruitless and the only time the metal
detector beeped loudly into action was when the pick, holstered on my
belt, swayed forward over the detector coil.
We decided that Clermont was
not the place of our wealth creation and headed east to the coast to visit
my brother and his wife in Mackay.
From Clermont the run to Mackay
on the Peak Downs Highway was quite scenic
with the silhouette of the
Peak Range on the horizon for the first hour or so. One of the most striking,
Mount Wolfang, was located just off the highway and the twin peaks of
the Gemini Mountains, peering over a harvested field, caught our eye.